There would not be a requirement to talk to more than a handful of Timberwolves followers before hearing the complaint that Andrew Wiggins “doesn’t care” to a proper degree in the evening’s outcome.
This would be an easier theory to endorse if Wiggins was not entering the final days of his fourth season having started in 325 of the 326 games that his team has played.
In an ironman role that he shares with third-year center Karl-Anthony Towns (244 out of 244 in starts), Wiggins has been fourth, 19th, third and now eighth in average minutes in the NBA. He also led the league with 3,048 total minutes in 2016-17.
Certainly, if Wiggins’ approach was as lackadaisical as his critics claim, he would have figured out a way to miss eight or 10 games a season. When you’re playing 36-plus minutes per night, there are endless opportunities to claim a sore knee or twisted ankle, in order to skip the second night of a back-to-back.
Wiggins has done the opposite of that. He missed the Wolves’ seventh game of the 2015-16 season, and now takes a streak of 237 consecutive starts into Monday night against Memphis.
For all the hand-wringing over Wiggins, the biggest problem is he has had a lousy year shooting the ball. Most dramatically, that has been at the free-throw line. He was a .760 shooter at the line for three seasons, and now he’s .643.
There’s something messed up mentally or mechanically when a player with Wiggins’ talent can’t make a free throw. He also has gone from .356 on threes last season to .330 in 2017-18.
Two things have to happen with Wiggins before the start of next season (and the start of his maximum contract): He has to spend the summer with the closest person he can find to Dell Curry as a shooting doctor, and coach Tom Thibodeau has to come up with a much better plan on how Jimmy Butler and Wiggins are supposed to play off one another.
When healthy, Butler has had the ball in moments that Wiggins used to get it, and in my view, this has left Wiggins hindered more by confusion than indifference.
• The Butler (and Teague) Effect: Andrew Wiggins has taken 291 fewer shots (1,279 to 1,570) than his total in 2016-17 and Karl-Anthony Towns 341 fewer shots (1,139 to 1,480).
• Attenton #minutespolice: Towns has played 189 fewer minutes (2,841 to 3,030) and Wiggins 147 fewer minutes (2,901 to 3,048) than totaled in 2016-17.
• Two victories this week would put Wolves at 47 and equal their fifth-highest total (2000-01). They had 50-plus wins four times: 1999-2000, then 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04.